LEGO 71741 Ninjago City Gardens – hands-on [Review]

When LEGO introduced the Ninjago theme back in 2011, no one could have guessed that it would come to be one of the company’s most popular themes. Ninjago is celebrating its 10th year anniversary, and now has its biggest set. 71741 Ninjago City Gardens. At 5,685 pieces, it’s the fifth-largest LEGO set ever, and the third entry into the cyberpunk modular buildings collection known as Ninjago City. Ninjago City Gardens consists of several high-rise buildings, which include all the essentials of modern city life. There are apartments, a dojo and an arcade. You will also find 19 miniaturefigures. UK PS274.99.| CAN $399.99 | UK £274.99. Let’s see how this one stacks up to the previous Ninjago City sets.

The LEGO Group gave a review copy of the set for The Brothers Brick. TBB is not responsible for reviewing products that were provided to them.

Box and contents

On September 22, 2017, the LEGO Ninjago Movie came out. It was met with poor reception, and it quickly disappeared from all Ninjago fanatics’ minds. The LEGO Fan Community’s most memorable contribution to the LEGO community was 70620 Ninjago City, which was released shortly before the film and along with the rest of that Ninjago wave bore the movie’s branding. LEGO’s first movie was published nine months later. 70657 Ninjago City Docks. Fans wondered when the Ninjago Movie brand would disappear from this box. After a delay of nearly two years, the third set finally arrives. LEGO removed the Ninjago Movie logo from the boxes and instead, the Ninjago Legacy symbol is used. Sets that recreate early Ninjago designs were not permitted to use the Legacy marque. But, it can still be used for Ninjago Garden sets. trend too, since it’s not based on any previous set. Another 2021 Ninjago Set71742 Overlord dragonIt also doesn’t have a predecessor. Oddly, it’s also not part of LEGO’s new 18+ branding, which we’ve already seen cross between themes with even Star Wars Ultimate Collector Series sets getting the treatment in addition to Creator Expert sets. Instead, the Gardens bears a more accurate 14+ age recommendation (after all, the 18+ rating is purely for marketing rather than a true description of the set’s difficulty).

 

With 5,685 pieces in Ninjago City Gardens, only 4 other LEGO sets have ever had more pieces: the brand new 10276 Colosseum, the Star Wars UCS 75192 Millennium Falcon, the Harry Potter 71043 Hogwarts Castle, and the Creator Expert 10256 (or 10189) Taj Mahal. This box measures a large height and depth. Like most large sets, some of the bags inside are in an inner plain white box, and to its credit, LEGO has sorted them so that everything you need to get started is in this white box–something we’ve long noted that LEGO should do. You will find the bags 1-11 as well the baseplates (instruction manuals and stickers sheets), in the box. You will find all other bags in the main box. You’ll likely have to dump out everything to get started, but you won’t have to sort through all the bags; just grab the white box and go.

You will find 43 total bags inside. They are spread over 26 steps. One bag contains large items. It’s quite a sight to see it all spread out. It’s a challenging proposition.

 

You can divide the instruction manual into three different booklets. Like Ninjago City Docks, there’s no behind-the-scenes content at the start of the instruction manual. Even though this set isn’t part of the new 18+ branding that LEGO is rolling out across themes, it would benefit from that treatment. There is at least a two-page spread at the start that gives names to the city’s various buildings and provides a translation guide for Ninjago’s script. You’ll also find a free Ninjago elements “poster”It’s sandwiched between manuals. It’s a fun freebie, but is printed on extremely thin high gloss paper, and feels more like a cover sheet than a poster.

 

Ninjago City Gardens in bustling cyberpunk Capital is full of all sorts of signs. Sadly, though, almost none of them are printed, which means you get not one but three hefty sticker sheets containing the 66 stickers you’ll apply throughout the build.

As for parts, there’s only one altogether new element to be found, and it’s an odd one. This unusual-looking piece is used as a decorative accent on Ninjago City Gardens’ support pillar on its first level. But its true purpose is as an escalator chain link for minifigures and minidolls, and it’s slated to appear in March in the Friends set 41450 Heartlake City Shopping Mall, which features a full escalator. Ninjago City Gardens has only two, so I made a mini escalator with the tread link.

Recolors, apart from that, are not a new element. There are many. I won’t list them all, but here are a few that caught my eye. The Technic Gear Rack housing is also available in sandblue. There’s just one in the set, and it’s used for the first-floor column that those escalator links attach to, and it’s used as a structural element only, not as part of a mechanism. There are also a significant number of the new 3×1 inverted arches that first hit the scene just a few weeks ago with 10278 Police Station, where they showed up in tan and light grey. They arrive here in black, and you’ll get 28 of them.

Then there’s the 1×3 brick with curved sides, which was used for the printed face of Dr. Fox from the Unikitty theme in 2018, but hasn’t been available outside of that. Here you’ll get just one that’s dark grey and unprinted, though it is covered with a sticker to become a TV. One update that’s sure to excite fans is the classic 6×5 leaf, which gets not one but two useful new colors added to the lineup: lime green and yellowish green, and you’ll get 10 in each. Finally, there’s the Ninjago weapons multipack, which showed up in bright green. This item is also included in the Ninjago71735 Tournament of Elements set.

The last bit that’s notable is the 1×2 trans light blue tile, which notable only because of its quantity. With the 1×2 tile making up the water that fills the canals, the three Ninjago City sets claim the top three slots for sets with the largest quantity of this piece. Ninjago City Gardens holds a slight advantage over Ninjago City Docks which boasts a remarkable 328 pieces. They are mostly contained in a handful of pre-sorted bags. Now, let’s get to building.

 

The building

Unlike Ninjago City Docks, the two baseplates that make up Ninjago City Gardens’ foundation are kept distinct and modular, allowing them to be rearranged. The build starts with the main structure on the 32×32 dark grey baseplate, and only moves to the smaller island shrine on the 16×32 baseplate once the main build is complete. Under the tiles, a green-black tile pattern is applied to water. In the corner of the back you can see one small island. Hidden details include the pipe running from the foundation up to the culvert. Some of the pipe can be seen in the final model but is hidden behind the structure. Only a tiny opening can be made in the sidewalk to reveal the part behind the culture. But it adds a nice touch of realism to know that the drainpipe is actually connected to something, even if you can’t see it.

Right off the bat you’ll get your first taste of tedium placing down the trans light blue 1×2 tiles. You have to be exceedingly careful to place them correctly, because if you lose the pattern you’ll quickly get into trouble and end up with the last piece not fitting. You will find many lovely details, like a tiny tree with claws that holds needles. Hidden behind small lanterns of stonework are the Technic pin connectors.

After the foundation is removed and the tree’s base has been cut, it will be possible to build the blocks remaining. Each room can be used as a miniature-build and then stacked on the model. The first building to be placed is Ronin’s Pawn Shop, with some hidden treasures beneath the floor. The Ninjago City Gardens first floors are separate buildings, which sit at opposite ends to the foundation’s L-shaped base. These structures will be joined higher up.

You’ll find bookshelves and weapons as well as paintings, toys, and other items in The Pawn Shop.

Although these small buildings may seem simple, many of them are complicated and employ innovative methods. In a 5,600-piece set that is certain to take you days to build, there are far too many clever bits to point out all of them, so I’ll just touch on some of the highlights, starting with the unnamed restaurant that occupies the other half of the bottom floor across from the Pawn Shop. It has a complicated design to use the book’s curved back cover as a serving counter.

The restaurant’s small size allows it to fit in a stove and sink.

 

Ninjago City Gardens takes interest-building techniques one step further. They aren’t rectangular like the other sets. While the first floors are built perpendicularly on their upper walls, their inner walls face one another. This is why the rooms located on lower levels exhibit irregular shapes.

 

On the second floor is the Tea Room, which includes the Tea Time Balcony as well as the Ninjago Fan Flat. In the Tea Room, you will find a second round window. These panes were made with the Technic motorcycle brake disk. This gives a traditional module a Steampunk/Techno look. The Ninjago Fan’s flat is appropriately packed full of Ninjago collectibles, from a tiny Destiny’s Bounty on the shelf to a bedspread covered in ninjas.

 

After the first two floors are stacked, it’s time for the lower sidewalk to connect the buildings. Even the big L-shaped slab of grey plates has a surprising amount of detail, with lots of signage and even a hanging microscale model for the Ninjago Fan’s flat.

 

As we’ve come to expect from Ninjago City modulars, the roofs are a treat, and a chance for the designers to show off clever innovations. Among the most interesting one is found on the Ice Planet Ice Cream Shop on the third floor, and it’s made of stacked cleavers, with the cleaver blades making the flat roof tiles. And while it’s relatively simple, the rounded front window on the shop is a wonderful touch.

The shop’s interior is no less impressive, but it is packed with incredible detail in a small footprint. The back roof of the icecream shop features one of the strangest roofing designs, which was made with video game controllers.

Next door, Chen’s Noodle Shop has a small cook station, menu board, and just enough room for a table.

Along with Chen’s Noodle Shop, the Ice Cream Shop makes up the third-floor structure. The walkway will be connected to the tree, which will reach the third floor. The general shapes and sizes of these buildings are easy to identify.

 

The upper level of the tree is connected later on in the process, but let’s look at it now. The tree’s lower half is made with Technic support columns and standard bricks and arches, while the outer limbs are connected with clips. I found that the lower-level limbs were too heavy for the clips, and they didn’t like to stay where I’d position them, falling back to a drooping stance at the slightest bump. It’s perfect. It uses the brown tails of animals for its upper section to make a tentacle shape. Once the walkway module is secured, you can attach the treetop.

 

The fourth floor is where it all comes together–literally. It is made up of one structure, which spans the two buildings. The Ninjago Museum of History occupies the main floor, and the Student Flat is located in the corner. The center section of the building is built on a clever diagonal, with the outward-facing wall of the museum built as a self-contained unit that’s slotted into the rest of the building. The wall is a marvel of LEGO geometry, but it’s just as entertaining as the relics within. The spotlights can be lit by minifigure angular stands. The center display case, which holds the dragon’s hilt, is the best detail. It has a treasure box bottom. But instead of a standard treasure chest lid, a windowpane is slotted into the hinge–a connection I’ve never encountered before.

When the wall is completed it can then be installed in the museum.

The museum has a neat design with a lobby with a rotating rack for postcards, a cash register, and turnstyle, while the displays have a variety of splendid micro builds from through Ninjago’s history.

The museum’s Student Flat is filled with as much detail as its museum. To create brickwork effects, the outside of the museum is covered in a mixture of green tiles. While the interior has many household items, it’s made of a mixture of green tiles. Window planter is my favourite detail. The skirt is upside down to make a tiny planter box.

This interior has everything you need to be an artist student. It includes a workspace that can hold a pencil and easel and desk.

Finally, there’s just the top floor and tower to assemble. To the left is the rooftop teahouse and zen garden. Although it’s one of the simplest buildings, it does feature another clever roof made of black treasure chest lids. Beneath the roof there’s an orange space helmet, which I believe is standing in for a bell, though I’m not positive.

However, The Tea House is not without its secrets. There’s a safe set in the base of the building, holding a single cheese slope. I’m not clear what the treasure is, but it’s a great detail regardless.

There’s also a flying bike that attaches to the Tea House by way of a transparent rod.

 

In the middle, the museum’s open atrium features a domed glass roof with a brilliant dragon skeleton hanging from the rafters. The module’s side is adorned with a flowering tree.

 

Then on the right side, there’s the ninjas’ hangout. For unauthorized access, the ladder on the back opens upwards. While the slot at the wall’s outer edge holds a poster for movies, it retracts downwards. Movie posters are available in many options, similar to the ones from Ninjago City. You can store the extra in a tower cubby.

It is filled with entertainment, such as an arcade machine, video game console and recliner. There are also a telescope and a recliner. Some of my favourite furniture is in there. It also has an arcade machine. You can flip the Technic pin “joystick” causes the printed 1×2 tile ninja warrior inside to jump up, “attacking”The dragon.

Outside the lair hangs a huge koi. This is an amazing structure by itself.

Finally, there’s only the tower left. The tower has a very minimal interior–there’s room inside only for storing the extra movie posters, and a seat with a few computers as the ultimate ninja control room. Large wedge slopes create an intricate diamond pattern around the outside of this complex build. The upper level of the tower is rotated 45 degrees, allowing the slopes to interlock and creating a very distinctive look that’s one of the defining traits of the set.

 

Finally, there’s just one thing left for the main build, and that’s add-on balconies. Ninjago City’s modular design means that walkways need to connect when they are placed together. The original Ninjago City set included an adjustable fence at both ends of each walkway. Ninjago City Gardens goes a step further and includes a few purpose-built endcaps that make the city look complete when it’s on its own, while being easily removed when placed next to another building.

Now, Ninjago City Gardens’ main structure has been built.

And that means it’s time to start on the second baseplate! It begins by laying the white and black plates which will go under the water tiles. You can also see here that there’s a large cavity in the middle of the island beneath the temple. Although there’s no particular use for this given in the set, it’s a perfect hiding spot for treasure. The temple can be removed for quick access.

 

The Temple Island comes together quickly, though even more than on the main building, you’ll need to watch carefully how you place the 1×2 water tiles, because there are a lot of them. The segment keeps up Ninjago City’s modular system by including the Technic connecting pins on tiny stone footings. Obviously, there’s no overhead walkways to connect on this section, but it the lowest level walkways do line up properly.

And now, 5,685 pieces later, we’ve got Ninjago City Gardens in its entirety.

As it’s completed

There’s not a lot I can say about the model as a whole that I haven’t already touched on, but one thing is worth going back to look at, and that’s the roofs. Ninjago City’s buildings are well-known for their innovative roof designs. You can turn the dial up on this feature with almost all roofs being different. I came across 11 distinct black tiled roofs. One more is found at the temple right next door.

 

You can easily break the entire set into 18 parts. The temple is missing from the picture below. The entire set is now playable. You can access all parts of the set. I don’t know how many kidsThe range-topping $300 Ninjago set will be available, but those who purchase it (and a few adults for that matter) will be captivated by how easy it is to tell stories through the multi-level set.

Ninjago City Gardens are a modular series, so fans of the game will most likely have previous sets. What does the garden look like? Then I did the first thing. “official”From left to right, place them in their release order. It looks splendid and makes an impressive city considering that we’re only looking at three LEGO sets here. Of course, combined they’ve got over 14,000 pieces, so it’s no wonder they’re impressive.

 

It is a perfect alignment of the sidewalks and buildings are beautiful with their ramshackle appearance that is rich in layers and history. Despite loving Ninjago City Docks, I’m less keen on the way the skyline dips down so low in the middle. This removes the Kowloon feel of cyberpunk that both models love. To form a dense block, I prefer how the original model and Ninjago City Gardens are joined. You could attach the docks to any of the backsides.

Minifigures

Ninjago City Gardens offers many residents. LEGO claims there are 19 minifigures if you add Scoop the robot janitor. By any fan’s estimation, though, there are 21 minifigures, not counting Scoop, thanks to several minifigures built into the scenery. Let’s take a look.

The Sensai Wu’s golden Sensai Wu is first. LEGO has been including special golden minifigures in a number of Ninjago sets this year to celebrate the theme’s 20th anniversary, such as 71736 Boulder Blaster. Like the others, Sensai Wu doesn’t fit into the set itself, but is more of a collectible bonus like getting a baseball card in your cereal. The display case includes a Ninjago 10 year anniversary tile.

 

For the regular minifigures, let’s start with the ninja crew. All six of the main heroes are included in this set, though they’re not all from the same time period. For example, Lloyd the younger of the main heroes is wearing Street clothes from Season 1. Cole and Nya however are in street wear from earlier seasons. Each of the six heads have alternate and double-sided expressions.

 

 

Many of the regular cast members are townsfolk, some of which have previously appeared on sets and on TV shows. Christina the Ninjago F (in her Lloyd hoodie and green Lloyd shirt) is one of these newcomers. About now I should admit that I am not a Ninjago expert, and don’t regularly watch the TV show or keep up with the plotlines of the sets, so I’m not going to attempt to go into detail on them. Likely, if you care about the backstory on these characters, you’ll know them better than I do. Or, if you’re like me, you’ll appreciate the characters as being interesting townsfolk whether or not you know their names. Names for all the cast are provided in the box. Let’s kick it off with  Kaito, Eileen, Tito, Christina, and Misako, Lloyd’s mother. Kaito, Christina and Eileen have heads that are double-sided with different expressions.

The next crew consists of professionals. First, there’s Cece the jewel thief, whose flying hoverbike is perched near the top of the city. Then there’s an unusual character that some of you may recognize from his own line of City sets and movies, before he was introduced to the Ninjago universe recently. The character he played in the Ninjago sets before him is identical to the one here. Then there’s Hai from the Ice Planet Ice Cream Shop, along with Mei. Hai is like every other one, and has many alternate expressions.

 

We have two Ninjago classics: Ronin, whose pawnshop is located on the Ninjago City Gardens’ first floor. And the Mechanical who has a massive buzzsaw. Then there’s Scoop the janitorial robot who cares for Ninjago City, and Sensei Wu’s dog. Scoop is a great brick-built design that utilizes a baby carrier stuffed with trans red 1×1 plates for the face.

 

These are official minifigures included in the box. Some other minifigures are also included in the box, which I already mentioned. A stone statue of Zane stands on the Temple Island, a caricatured Asian minifigure who’s the figurehead for Chen’s Noodle Shop, and Jay’s blue suit, which just has a blank head inside.

Conclusion and recommendation

Sometimes it can be hard to summarize LEGO sets. If you are unsure whether to wait or purchase a LEGO set, we will give recommendations. But Ninjago City Gardens is one of those delightful sets that makes my job easy in that department, because no matter what angle you approach it from, it’s an excellent set. If you’re a Ninjago fan, it’s chock full of great references and history and gives us the biggest slice of Ninjago City yet. If you’re not particularly a Ninjago fan, but love sets with a complex and engaging build full of novel part usages and clever details, then Ninjago City Gardens is the best minifigure-scale example in LEGO’s current lineup.

And if you don’t care about either of those things and just want more LEGO for your own build, then Ninjago City Gardens still has you covered. The price-per-piece for the set’s 5,685 elements comes out to just $0.05 per piece, making this set a staggeringly cheap bargain that’s surpassed only by the likes of oddball sets such as 31201 Harry Potter Hogwarts Crests. And unlike a mosaic set whose element variety leaves something to be desired, Ninjago City Gardens has an enormous array of pieces–the inventory in the manual spans 10 pages! If you can afford to drop $300 on a LEGO set, you’ll find few ways to get more bang for your buck.

But ultimately, Ninjago City Gardens isn’t great because it’s a good parts pack. It’s great because it’s clear that the design directive for LEGO Designer Markus Rollbühler was to make an excellent set the way a fan would–with care given to the details and nothing spared if it meant a better result. We should look forward to this in the next ten years of Ninjago.

71741 Ninjago City Gardens UK PS274.99.| CAN $399.99 | UK £274.99. It is a LEGO exclusive product, however it might be available at third-party sellers on Amazon or eBay.

LEGO 71741 Ninjago City Gardens – hands-on [Review]

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